Gluten Free Hiking Food

Female hiker on a trail through autumnn foliage

Gluten free hiking food is not a subject I take lightly.

About 20 years ago, I painfully discovered that wheat and rye and barley are not my friends, intestinally speaking.

Being the stubborn woman I am, I was not about to give up hiking, just because I couldn't pack a sandwich and chocolate chip cookies in my day pack!

Unless you've made a conscious effort to notice how many foods contain gluten, you probably don't realize what a monumental effort it is to find food that is free of the stuff AND trail friendly.

  • Added challenge: Decades ago, nobody had even heard of gluten free hiking foods!

Also try eating carrot sticks and salami (no bread, no crackers, no cookies, no easily digested sources of complex carbohydrates) day after day on a backpacking trip, running out of fast fuel for hard working muscles...

I learned the hard way that gluten free ain't easy.

Or fun.

But it's oh so necessary for some of us!

Twenty years of trial and error is a long time... so I know what I'm talking about when I share my gluten free hiking food tips with you.

Let's start at the beginning.


Gluten free hiking food basics

If you haven't read my general information on hiking nutrition, it's good background reading before tackling this.

  • Do you know your way around carbs, protein, and fats, and why it's so important to get the right balance of them as a hiker?

To cut right to the chase, download my Hiking Nutrition Tips for Gluten Free Hikers.

  • It's an inexpensive, fast, info packed read and will help you head out on the trail with GF confidence.
  • It will also help you sort out the differences between gluten allergy/insensitivity/intolerance.

If you need resources for how to handle living gluten free in general (or wonder if you need a diagnosis), here's a ton of them.


If you're ready to start cooking up a GF storm, my current favorite blog with health information and great recipes for all occasions is right here.


Not sure what your digestive upsets on the trail are related to? Consider these tips.


Types of gluten free hiking food

Gluten free hiking food comes in 3 "flavors":

  • make your own,
  • delete/replace the gluten from store bought prepared food, or
  • purchase gluten free specialty products.

Each of these foods vary with level of difficulty, cost, and effectiveness at avoiding gluten.

I'll say a few words below about each approach, based on my experience with products, recipes and cost.


Make your own gluten free
hiking food

The "make your own GF food" route has gotten so much easier over the years.


"Gluten Free" in the title of a cookbook is no longer an anomaly!

You can also find lots of great information on the Internet, including blogs and recipe sites (see my recommendations above).

If you decide to make your own carbohydrate-rich gluten free hiking food, you will need to purchase non-wheat flours and other baking ingredients such as xanthan.

  • These ingredients will cost more, which can be daunting at first.
  • They might be hard to locate, although on line purchasing opens up a wide range to you.

Don't let this slow you down.

There are resources galore, and within a few days a package filled with gluten free flours (rice, teff, quinoa, tapioca, etc) and other baking ingredients (xanthan gum, potato starch, buckwheat, and more) can be on your doorstep.

The blog I link to above can get you started with recipes, and they have 2 great cookbooks that go over the basics.

Remember, GF won't be cheap. Gluten free anything costs more, regardless of whether it's raw ingredients or the final product.

However, feeling great and having a high energy level on the trail is worth the extra cost. It has certainly made a difference in my trail time.

One exception: Oats are your friend, and they're inexpensive.

  • Just be careful to get them at a place that can guarantee that they are not cross contaminated with gluten products.

Thus, home made granola is your best trail friend. Why?

  • It's cheap,
  • easy & fast to make,
  • easy to transport, and
  •  very very tasty if you use high quality oil and throw in dried fruit for extra carbs.
  • Add fresh high quality unsalted nuts for protein, and you've got a balanced powerhouse hiking food. Rely on it! Just keep it away from the chipmunks.

Try this website for some in depth ideas on what to try as you prepare hiking menus.


And if granola doesn't do it for you, here's a free pdf recipe of my own GF trail snacks called Energy Spheres! They're built around nut butter and dates.


I get lots of emails asking for recommendations for companies that make GF flours and other ingredients.

  • I have to say that Bob's Red Mill is the most trusted source I've found, and I've done lots of trial/trail and error over the years.

Also, the convenience of ordering in bulk has cut down the amount of time I'm in the kitchen.

  • The cost savings is also nice (grocery stores charge a premium for one little package).

Give these products a look, and know that I've incorporated them into my gluten free hiking foods without misgivings or bad results.

To get you started, take a look at this timesaver:

"made for you" blend of GF flours.


Modify existing products

This is tricky if you have a raging gluten allergy and must avoid gluten at all costs.

I don't recommend this route if your life is endangered upon ingesting gluten (anaphylactic shock).

However, if you suffer mild abdominal issues & discomfort and want to experiment with taking the gluten out of your favorite mixes, you can try the modification route.

  • For example, you can substitute rice noodles in your favorite instant soup recipe (as long as the noodles are in their own separate package; toss the original noodles and keep the flavor packets).

Be careful when selecting bulk bin items for your menus.

  • There might be cross-contamination when one bin becomes empty and the next thing gets dumped into it.

This is a common source of gluten contamination in oats. Bob's Red Mill (see above) provides certified GF oats (with lab testing to prove no gluten is present).

If pasta was a go-to trail food until the gluten thing exploded in your life, mac & cheese doesn't have to be a dim memory! You can carry the flavor packet and add it to your own GF noodles.


Here are my absolute favorite sources for GF pastas for camping and hiking:

bionaturae Organic Penne Rigate

and...

Tinkyada Pasta


Your 3rd option:
Go completely gluten free

Here's where I come in.

I'm bursting with recommendations!

I've tried so many, many brands over the years that I feel as if I could be a worldwide authority on gluten free living.

However, I'll confine myself to hiking food (at least for the moment).

Carbohydrates, specifically.


Carbohydrate sources for tasty gluten free hiking food

It's all about carbs for quick energy on the trail.

And if you can't eat wheat bread/crackers/cookies/pasta, you're at a deficit.

Unless you use these products:

a) Udi's is a brand I've come to trust when I crave sandwiches and bakery treats.

  • Their muffins are not as tasty as their bread, but all of them will provide easy carbs on a day hike.
  • The bagels are particularly trail worthy. Smear some of your favorite nut butter and jam on them, and voila! Protein AND carbs that won't smash to dust in your lunch sack.
  • And their dark chocolate brownie bites are a great after lunch trail snack! (Super easy to down more than a few at a time. Be forewarned).
Udi's Gluten Free Bread and Bagels

Udi's also makes granola, which is convenient and tasty.


And here's a beloved protein source to spread over those carbs, in handy little snack sizes:

Justins Almond Butter Squeeze Packets


A recent addition to my GF carbs repertoire comes from the Happy Campers GF folks, with a dedicated GF bakery to ensure no cross contamination.

Take a look at their products and know that they ship anywhere in the U.S. if you can't locate a nearby store or restaurant using their handy locator map.



b) Go Raw is a pricey favorite of mine, but I feel that the quality and taste justifies the price, especially on multi-day trips when I really need something tasty (yet nutritious, since I'm running out of reserves).

They have gluten free, wheat free and nut free bars, cookies, chips, granola and more.

Here's my current favorite, with one serving (18 pieces!!) delivering 21 grams of carbs. Oh, yeah!

Go Raw Lemon Cookies


c) PURE is another company that I trust to keep me gluten free.

Their fruit & nut bars keep me going hour after hour on the trail, my absolute favorite being the wild blueberry.

Don't you crave fruit after a few days out on the trail? Me, too!

Here's how I satisfy that longing:

Pure Bar Organic Fruit & Nut Bars


d) Freeze dried backpacking food is expensive but worth it when you're planning a long trip and weight is your #1 consideration, followed closely by satisfying your demanding muscles and raucous taste buds.

I am partial to Backpackers Pantry, myself.

Why? Not as many preservatives and artificial flavorings as other companies; added vitamins and nutrients so my hard working body can rebuild after dinner, and the flavor combos are satisfying.

Katmandu Curry - yum!

Here's a tip:

  • Rehydrate for at least twice as long as stated on the package. You don't want rock hard beans and rice in your gut all night long. Trust me on this!

And don't be fooled by the stated portion as "two servings" - I can wolf down this amount quite easily at the end of a long day on the trail and my guess is, you can, too.

Backpacker's Pantry Katmandu Curry

Not a curry fan?
They have lots of other flavors and whatever your palate craves, I'll bet you can find an entrée that will satisfy you.

Look over their list of ingredients to avoid both wheat and gluten.

If you want organic AND gluten free backpacking food, read this.

If you want paleo backpacking food (by definition gluten free), read this.



e) Rice crackers have given me SO much energy on a hike that I have to clue you into them.

It's tough to recommend just one brand, so my advice is to try whatever is available in your local store.

Rice cakes don't travel well, but some rice crackers come in enough packaging that they will make it through a tough hike.

If you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's near you, check out their cracker selection for gluten free hiking food. Or you can buy them on line. Here are my top picks:

Trader Joe's Original Savory Thin Mini Crackers

And for a bit more of a flavor punch:

Trader Joe's Multiseed with Soy Sauce Rice Crackers


One more favorite in the rice cracker department - as long as you can tolerate nuts.

These are baked to a crispness that travels well in a backpack, and they are dee-licious:

Blue Diamond Nut-Thins Pecan Crackers

As always, buy in bulk for the best savings.

It won't take many days on the trail to work your way through these tasty crackers, and as long as you don't open the foil pouches, they'll stay fresh and crisp.


f) Here's a fast way to get some energy without gluten, preservatives or weird flavors: Sesame Snaps.

I love these little beauties because they ride well in my pack and weigh almost nothing.

Also, they don't go stale. (Although they can "weld" together if you keep them in high temperatures for a few days.)

I use them at the end of a tough hike, too, because they're a convenient way to replenish my blood glucose and begin to rebuild my glycogen stores.

Betcha can't eat just one little package!

Amki Original Sesame Snaps


GF protein sources

And of course, we need to pay close attention to protein when we're out on the trail longer than a day.

Why?

Carbs give us energy, but protein helps rebuild muscles and keeps our immunity high.


Here's a great source of "clean" protein - meaning gluten and additive free but packed with flavor!

  • If you look into the back story of this company, you might be impressed.
  • But it's the taste that makes these stand out for gluten free hiking food.

Warning: These are addictive gluten free hiking food!

I can't eat just a handful, so I package these in the smallest possible ziplock plastic bags and label them by day with a stern warning: "These are for Tuesday's lunch ONLY!"

Tanka Bites,Buffalo Cranberry Bites


Here's another protein source that recently came to my attention (thanks, Lynn):

EPIC protein bars.

Nice selection of flavors, too: turkey, bison, lamb and more.

Epic Bars


Another way to get protein: raw nuts.

Why not salted and roasted and flavored?

Unless you're hiking through extreme heat conditions, you don't need that much salt throughout the day.

  • It's hard on your kidneys, which are struggling to maintain the correct water balance.
  • Also, your taste buds will get conditioned to huge amounts of stimulating salts, sugars and flavorings, leaving everything else you eat flat and tasteless.

Here is my favorite raw trail mix, pre-mixed, but nothing says you can't customize your own particular pairings of nuts and dried fruit to bring harmonious relations with carbs and proteins to your digestive system!

Trader Joe's Go Raw Trek Mix


Contact me with your favorite gluten free hiking food ideas!

I'm so very happy to share my hard won knowledge because I want you, my gluten free virtual trail buddy, to have the energy and well being you deserve on your hiking adventures.

What a relief it was to figure out that gluten was making me tired, cranky and unmotivated on the trail!

For your strongest vitality on the trail, go with gluten free hiking food and never look back (unless it's for a stunning vista from your favorite trail).

These tried and true gluten free hiking foods will get you started.

Give these products a try, and let me know what you think.

And if you find something even better, please share!

You can reach me two ways:

  • Use the CONTACT link at the top left of any page.
  • Use the contact form below.

We can also stay in touch via the Hiking For Her Facebook page.

Or Pinterest Best Hiking Foods page!


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Some of the GF food links bring you directly to the place you can view and order the products, and because of this, I will receive a small (single digit) percentage of your purchase price. You don't pay anything extra.

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